Cinerama: Psycho

Posted: September 11, 2009 in Cinerama


By Mike Derderian

You can almost hear the air coming out of his nostrils, as his accelerating heartbeat echoes through his eardrums making it difficult to comprehend any other sound, especially the one resulting from the fading breath of his victim.

For a moment, he just stood there looking down at the mutilated lifeless body, until an uneasy feeling came upon him making him short of breath. It seems that the adrenaline rush that accompanied his ghastly act is no longer there, it is now replaced by fear. His hands begun to shiver as drops of cold sweat slid upon his backbone, not to mention the feeling of suffocation that suddenly swept over him by surprise as he stared at his hands that were drenched with blood, warm blood.

Looking at the mirror, he sees what he hates most gazing right at him in the eye. In a fit of raving fury, he smashes it; however, terror strikes him for now there are dozens of splinters, small mirrors lying on the floor, mirrors that reflect one thing, his monstrosity.

Look into the mirror, tell me what do you see? Is it really you behind that innocent face, that docile and tender face of yours that manages to charm everyone into admiration of your well-mannered persona that hides a bloodthirsty murderer, a killer, a Psycho!

The previous excerpt was meant to put you in a psychotic mood to understand what a psychotic killer would undergo during one of his ritualistic killings. The psycho term is no longer used like it was in the older days. Psychos nowadays are called “mentally incompetent” individuals with a lot of problems.

Why such a dark and gloomy subject, you might ask? I guess I wanted to familiarize you with Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 “Psycho,” a classic horror film that is regarded as thee row model for this genre of films.

A black and white noir classic that starred the beautiful baby faced Janet Leigh, Vera Miles and Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, who with his handsome features, slender lanky posture gave quite an eerie and uncomfortable feeling through his on camera presence.

Perkins’s portrayal of the disturbed Norman was brilliant for you could almost feel his indifference to anything, a young man who owns a family motel in the middle of nowhere, a gothic creepy looking motel on a secluded hill. Are you scared my dear reader, or do you need more details?

The mastery of Hitchcock’s direction lies in the fact that he is able to create a very frightening uneasy tempo through the simplest technique, take for example a simple small room void of fancy decorations.

The room is well lit with a few chairs here and there, a table with a cup of water on its surface, until now all is simple or so you think. We are able to see all these details through the steady camera glide until it suddenly shifts accompanied with the dimming of light to a dark corner where you can hear an ominous murmuring sound that is trying to tell you: Leave while still you can. But will the unsuspecting victim heed to these warnings? Regretfully he or she won’t.

This effect was used in most of Hitchcock’s films, accompanied with nerve-racking music that deploys the use of trumpets, percussion’s and the scariest one of all “the sound of silence,” until it is broken by sudden jerk of the camera that will place you in front of the killer.

Most of Hitchcock’s plots are about people who are placed in strange and enigmatic circumstances that will turn them into stone cold killers. In Bates situation he is driven by the hate that he bears for his mother, as for the rest I’ll leave that for you to find out.

The shower scene is the best-remembered sequence. I mean who wouldn’t remember Marion Crane (Leigh) undressing her self as she prepares to take that hot relaxing shower. A scene that was usually censored in most of the films of that era, however, Hitchcock brilliantly manages to sugar coat it and give more insinuations of the verb “undress” than images of clear nudity.

As Marion enters the curtained shower and turns the faucet on, all you will hear and see for the following minuets is the sound of running hot water. At that same moment the camera cuts through the steam resulting from that soothing shower, enabling you to take glance at the unsuspecting Marion who is enjoying her shower when suddenly a high pitched music breaks off and a large knife’s silhouette appears on the shower curtain. Aaaaaah.

A word of advice, the next time you get into the bathroom to have a nice hot shower, “Lock the door.” For you wouldn’t know who might pay you a visit, while enjoying the steamy rush of water unaware that this might be your final bath and it won’t be just a nice peek-a-boo moment.


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